Posts Tagged ‘first world war’
[URBAN NOTE] “The girl who lived: Remembering the Halifax explosion through a child’s eyes, 99 years later
The Globe and Mail features Stephen MacGillavray’s interview with Kaye Chapman, a centenarian who at the age of 5 witnessed the Halifax Explosion 99 years ago today.
Nearly a century ago, five-year-old Kaye Chapman said goodbye to her four brothers and sisters as they rushed out the door of their north-end Halifax home. She collected her Bible and hymnbook and was about to play Sunday school, when a deafening boom swept her off her feet.
It was Dec. 6, 1917, toward the end of the First World War, when Halifax was the epicentre of the Canadian war effort.
Just before 9 a.m., the French munitions ship Mont-Blanc was arriving in Halifax to join a convoy across the Atlantic. The Norwegian vessel Imo was leaving, en route to New York to pick up relief supplies for battle-weary troops in Belgium. Both vessels were in the tightest section of the harbour when they collided, igniting a blaze that set off the biggest human-caused explosion prior to the atomic bomb.
The Halifax Explosion devastated the north end of the city, killing nearly 2,000 and injuring 9,000. The blast released an explosive force equal to about 2.9 kilotonnes of TNT. Shock waves were felt as far away as Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island. The Mont-Blanc was blown to pieces, its half-tonne anchor shaft landing more than three kilometres away.
Today, few survivors are left, likely none with the vivid firsthand recall of 104-year-old Mrs. Chapman, who lived on Clifton Street, about two kilometres from ground zero.
“As young as I was, I can see everything and I can even tell what we were dressed in,” she said at her assisted-living apartment in Saint John. “I had a little white outfit on – a tiny white dress and white stockings.”
The Toronto Star‘s Paul Hunter describes how one street in the Annex was devastated by the loss of its young men in the First World War.
They grew up on the same West Annex street, a few doors from each other; boyhood pals, then teenaged running mates. Four of them attended Harbord Collegiate together.
They had names like Billy, Kenny and Cecil, a champion runner who may have been the best athlete of the gang. Though young Eustace, part of a provincial rugby championship, would have argued that.
Life was good on Howland Ave.
There were about 35 red-brick houses, many with impressive gables, on each side of the first block north from Bloor St. to Barton Ave. It was a place where neighbours looked out for neighbours. And a time when the future seemed boundless.
Soon, as what happens with childhood friends, the boys became young men and left their tree-lined street to find their own way.
Soon, most would be dead.
Swept up in patriotic fervour, they signed on to serve King and country in the First World War.
There is much more at the Star.